Skip to comments.Canada won't join U.S. to isolate Syria, PM says
Posted on 04/16/2003 4:16:39 AM PDT by Lorenb420
OTTAWA - Jean Chrétien yesterday distanced Canada from Washington's campaign to pressure Syria to disarm and sever ties to international terrorism, a move that could widen the rift between Canada and the United States.
But the Prime Minister, on a trip to the Dominican Republic, appeared unmoved by U.S. disapproval of Canada's refusal to join the war against Iraq, saying he was "very proud" of his stand against the war.
Mr. Chrétien went further, declaring Canada has no plans to join the United States if it imposes economic sanctions on Syria.
"If the Americans decide to do that, they have the privilege to do that. For us, we're not planning to do anything like that immediate," he said.
He said later that questions about possible American sanctions or military intervention in Syria were "strictly speculation."
"It's not my role to respond to all questions of if, if, if, if, if. Let's deal with reality," he said.
However, the Prime Minister's assertiveness could further antagonize George W. Bush, the U.S. President, who has accused Syria of stockpiling chemical weapons and harbouring fleeing members of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.
The United States moved yesterday to further isolate Syria by shutting down a pipeline used for illegal oil shipments from neighbouring Iraq. There have been reports that Syria was receiving 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of oil daily through the pipeline, which was operating in violation of UN sanctions.
On Monday, Mr. Chrétien told reporters he was not aware the United States had threatened Syria. But yesterday, the Prime Minister accused the media of exaggerating the importance of his failure to keep abreast of the news.
"If they talk in Washington, I hope that you will not expect me to be listening 24 hours a day to all that's being said around the world," he said.
Mr. Chrétien's determination to continue standing up to Mr. Bush came just hours before Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State, expressed disappointment with Canada's policy of neutrality but said he was confident Ottawa would help rebuild Iraq.
Jason Kenny, the Canadian Alliance critic for Canada-U.S. relations, condemned the Prime Minister's refusal to support U.S. pressure on Syria.
He said the Prime Minister seems determined to kick sand in Mr. Bush's face after he cancelled a May 5 state visit to Ottawa, while inviting John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia and a staunch supporter of the war, to his Crawford, Tex., ranch on May 2-3.
"He has decided to dig in and be petulant. His idea of independence is to react to the United States," Mr. Kenney said.
"Why can't Canada lead the world in using its supposed diplomatic authority to pressure states sponsors of terrorism like Syria rather than admit that he has completely mishandled the Iraq file?"
Mr. Chrétien insisted yesterday that Mr. Bush's cancellation of the Ottawa trip had nothing to do with Canada's anti-war policy. He also said the President's prized invitation to Mr. Howard was not as significant as the Ottawa trip, which was "a more onerous, official visit involving a speech in the House of Commons."
"Both governments have agreed to postpone it. That's the reality," Mr. Chrétien said.
Steve Hogue, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, said Mr. Chrétien had no plans to speak to Mr. Bush even though the two have not talked since February: "When he feels the need, he will call him."
However, Jacques Chirac, the French President and Europe's most outspoken critic of the Iraqi war, has telephoned the U.S. President to repair frayed relations.
Mr. Chirac called Mr. Bush -- the two leaders' first conversation in more than two months -- and told him Paris is willing to adopt a "pragmatic approach" on post-war issues.
Among the issues cited by Chirac were Iraq's administration and reconstruction, its rich oil resources, international sanctions still in place against Iraq, and plans for an interim government.
Mr. Kenney said he was stunned Mr. Chrétien would not call Mr. Bush to repair fractured relations between the two countries. "We have a crisis in Canada-U.S. relations and he says there is nothing to talk about."
Speaking in Washington about Canada-U.S. relations, Mr. Powell acknowledged Mr. Bush was unhappy with Mr. Chrétien's handling of the war in Iraq but tried to put a positive light on future relations.
"Canada and the United States are, frankly, inseparable," he said. "Obviously, we were disappointed in the initial Canadian response to the conflict but I am confident now that we are in the reconstruction and humanitarian phase that Canada is in the unique position to provide assistance."
The Prime Minister has said Canada is prepared to offer RCMP and humanitarian aid although the U.S. embassy in Ottawa said it still awaiting a concrete proposal.
Meanwhile, Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, yesterday played down any rift in Canada-U.S. relations, insisting Washington needs an independent voice from an ally like Canada: "I think there are many Americans who agree with us."
Mr. Graham told reporters in Vancouver that Canada wants Syria to "be co-operative in getting rid of weapons of mass destruction."
OK, reality is: you're an idiot.
Perhaps the Canadian media hasn't reported on the torture chambers. Maybe they haven't informed their country about the childrens and underground prisons. Maybe Mr Chretian is unaware of the practice of rape and family disappearrances and murder that occurred routinely in Ba'athist Iraq.
Maybe he just doesn't give a crap.
Lets see .... Chretien is retiring and the new prime minster (likely Paul Martin) will be announced in November 2003. I think I'm right? Yeah that has to be right if memory serves.
So I have 7 more months of this idiot.
Where is my brown paper bag to put over my head.
Frontpage Magazine has a good article calling Canada, "France II". I think that about sums it up.
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